Northgreen thinks outside tee box

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Robert Dildy golfs Saturday at Northgreen Country Club.


Sports Writer

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Randy Davis is excited to come to the course again.

Davis was the golf professional at Northgreen Country Club when the Rocky Mount course held 10 ACC Tournaments during the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, the course was in top shape, competing with other local courses like Benvenue Country Club and Birchwood.

Northgreen has since fallen on hard times and has been an afterthought for players in the area. During a 10-year period from 2005-2015, declining membership and decaying playing surface led to the course sinking into irrelevance.

Those times are over, and it’s all because of a cold call from a marketing firm with a bold idea.

“There’s no reason this course shouldn’t be on par with the likes of a Benvenue or a Birchwood,” Davis, 59, said from a chair in the pro shop. “I’ve always had big ideas for this place, to stimulate the course and get it in better shape.

“Now, it’s a reality.”

Northgreen, in December of 2016, was presented with an idea to offer a three-year membership for $177. The price includes green fees, meaning that players who bought this package could walk on and play for the next three years without taking out their wallets.

Davis, the course’s general manager, wasn’t sure what to expect. He has spent his life around golf courses, and hasn’t seen any promotion quite like this — a one-time fee that covers three years of golf. And when the offer went live near the end of February, it was an instant success.

Northgreen blasted the offer across various social media platforms around 9:15 a.m. the first day. By 9:30, Davis was fielding his first phone call about the offer.

“We had 90 sign up that first day,” Davis said. “We hadn’t seen anything like it.”

Acquiring 90 new members was huge. The club would previously do numbers around 50 members per year. This was almost double during one day. Davis employs four workers in the pro shop, with two full time. He said that he elevated a third’s hours to help handle the demand.

By the time the 90-day promotion ended, Northgreen secured around 1,200 new members. What Davis is most proud of, is that 70 of those members are ladies.

“It’s phenomenal,” Davis said. “It’s nice to have a mix of players. I want to grow this course at the junior level as well. That’s next year’s project.”

The added interest in the course and the influx of money has helped Davis begin to cross off some things on his wish list.

The club has bought new carts, spent the first half of the summer repairing the bar and snack shop, which opened July 12, and has plans of breaking ground on a pool. Next in the crosshairs are the cart paths, which have crumbled over the years.

“Everyone knows our cart paths are horrible,” Davis said. “But we’re working on fixing those. With everything, we’re in the process of bringing this course back to relevance in the area.

“You used to hear negative words associated with Northgreen, and those words are going away now. It’s fun to come into work. I feel rejuvenated. It’s about pride for me. I want to be able to show off this course.”

All of this was possible due to a new marketing strategy. Now, other golf courses are keeping a watchful eye. Davis said he has received calls from courses across the country, asking him about the results. Most are from courses in a similar situation as Northgreen. Courses are always searching for new ways to attract members, without the scary shock of a stiff membership fee.

So far, this has been a smart route.